Merguez and duck sausage with sweet and sour cherries: one of Acre's new small plates.
The bar at Acre in East Memphis is a stylish oasis for drinks on the patio or a cozy chat inside. In addition to its ambience, there's bartender Bart Mallard, who reminds me of a crazy chemist infusing Red Riding Hood moonshine with fennel, figs and pecans or inventing drinks like Ginger Falls and Compost, two of the his latest seasonal cocktails. “Why Compost?” I asked about the drink's odd name.
“I've just always wanted to make a drink with the name Compost,” he says, smiling and handing me a taste of the rich dark brew made with Gosling's Black Rum, black garlic, Dr. Pepper, figs, and a piece of black licorice.
While the Compost is delicious, I order Ginger Falls instead, a mix of ginger beer, candied ginger, and vodka infused with ginger and sorghum molasses. Yes, I know. That's a lot of ginger. But the drink is a fragrant autumn blend, especially when paired with Duck Pastrami Hash. Believe me, there is nothing small about this small plate: A perfectly poached egg tops a mound of hash made with shredded duck pastrami and potatoes. Break into the egg yoke and the liquid gold melts into green peppercorn sauce,
making a scrumptous dipping pool for chunky pieces of sourdough.
Tony won't eat eggs, so I get the hash to myself. He doesn't mind. He is smittened with the bar's new Truffle Potato Chips. They are fried in truffle oil and tossed with small pieces of bacon and malted (that means powdered) bacon fat. I kid you not. I'm also serious when I say these are the most unique and best tasting potato chips I've ever eaten.
Both the chips and the hash are part of the bar's new menu, which also includes Merguez and Duck Sausage, pictured above. Merguez are spicy sausages made with lamb and beef and popular in the Middle East. Acre's version are served on a white dish painted with pesto, mint jalapeno mustard, and sweet and sour cherries. Another don't-miss dish on the menu are a pair of steamed buns, which look like white winter hand muffs warming pickled cucumber, carrot, and braised pork belly.
By the time we work our way through the pork belly buns, I'm floored by the harmonious blend of flavors in Acre's assortment of small plates. “How in the world do your chefs think of these things?” I ask bartender Sheri Ann Bangham.
“It's a love kitchen back there,” she says. “Out front, the restaurant can get crazy, but in the kitchen, they are cool, just chopping away. It's amazing.”
Acre, 690 S. Perkins, acrememphis.com (818-2273)